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Dissolution Testing for Poorly Soluble

Drugs: A Continuing Perspective

K. Gowthamarajan1 and Sachin Kumar Singh2,*

e-mail: sachin_pharma06@yahoo.co.in

Department of Pharmaceutics, J. S. S. College of Pharmacy, Post Box No. 20, Rocklands,

Ooty-643001 dist. Nilgiris, Tamilnadu, India
Department of Pharmaceutical Analysis, Bharathi College of Pharmacy,
Bharathinagara-571422, Maddur Tq. Mandya Dist., Karnataka, India

The development of a meaningful dissolution procedure for drug products with limited water solubility has been a challenge
to both the pharmaceutical industry and the agencies that regulate them. These challenges include developing and
validating the test methods, ensuring that methods are appropriately discriminatory, and addressing the potential for an
in vivoin vitro correlation (IVIVC). Dissolution test media selection should be justified for pH (recommended pH range is
1.27.5) as well as surfactant type (ionic versus non-ionic) and amount. If the drug is not soluble in the in vivo pH range,
with or without surfactants, then the use of nonaqueous media can be preferred with proper justifications. Physical
modifications of the drug, such as particle size reduction, use of metastable polymorphs, eutectic mixtures, solid dispersions, or complexation, are being widely used in the industry to enhance the drug dissolution characteristics. In recent
years, newer physical modifications (e.g., microemulsions and nanocrystals) are giving promising results in enhancement
of drug dissolution and bioavailability of poorly soluble drugs. Whatever method is used by the dissolution scientists, it
must aim towards the cheaper but most effective approach to enhance the dissolution behavior of poorly soluble drugs.
rug dissolution testing is an analytical technique
used to assess release profiles of drugs from
pharmaceutical products, generally solid oral
products such as tablets and capsules. For a dosage form
to produce its effect, drug must be released and generally
should be dissolved in the fluids of the gastrointestinal
tract. Drug dissolution testing plays an important role as a
routine quality control test, for characterizing the quality
of the product, for accepting product sameness under
SUPAC (Scale-Up and Post-Approval Changes) related
changes, in waiving bioequivalence requirements for
lower strengths of a dosage form, and in supporting
waivers for other bioequivalence requirements (1).
Dissolution from the dosage form involves mainly two
steps: liberation of the drug from the formulation matrix
(disintegration) followed by the dissolution of the drug
(solubilization of the drug particles) in the liquid medium.
The overall rate of dissolution depends on the slower of
these two steps. In the first step of dissolution, the
cohesive properties of the formulated drug play a key role.
For solid dosage forms, these properties include
disintegration and erosion. If the first step of dissolution is
rate-limiting, then the rate of dissolution is considered
disintegration controlled. In the second step of dissolution
(i.e., solubilization of drug particles), the physicochemical
properties of the drug such as its chemical form (e.g., salt,
free acid, free base) and physical form (e.g., amorphous or
polymorph and primary particle size) play an important
role. If this latter step is rate-limiting, then the rate of

*Corresponding author.


dissolution is dissolution controlled. This is the case for

most poorly soluble compounds in immediate-release (IR)
formulations whose solubility is less than 12 mg/L in the
pH range of 28. Recent advanced technologies like
combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening
are effective in the discovery of new drugs with good
pharmacological activities (3). About 3540% of the drugs
discovered with these technologies have poor aqueous
solubility (4).
Dissolution testing of poorly soluble compounds in
immediate-release (IR) solid dosage forms poses many
challenges. These challenges include developing and
validating the test method, ensuring that the method is
appropriately discriminatory, and addressing the potential
for an in vivoin vitro relationship (IVIVR) or correlation
(IVIVC). Satisfying all of these challenges and developing a
meaningful dissolution method is a large task, because the
extent of release is too low (i.e., one cannot get 100% of
the dosage form dissolved) and secondly, the rate of
release is too slow (i.e., one cannot get dissolution fast
enough for a convenient test) (5).
Here, an attempt has been made to highlight the
approaches to improve the dissolution of poorly soluble
To improve the dissolution of poorly soluble drugs, one
needs to increase the maximum dissolvable dose in the
dissolution media. The maximum dissolvable dose of the
drug is given by
Maximum Dissolvable Dose = V CS / Sink
where V is the dissolution medium volume, CS is the
saturated solubility of the compound in the medium, and

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Sink is sink condition calculated as CS/CD (where CD is the

concentration of compound in the bulk medium) and
should be greater than or equal to 3.
To increase the maximum dissolvable dose, one needs to
increase the dissolution medium volume, change the
medium to increase the saturation solubility of the
compound,or reduce the dissolution sink requirements.
There are several methods that are physiologically
relevant that will increase the solubility of the drug in the
medium. Alternatively, nonaqueous solvents can be used if
justified. Therefore, the first step is to select a proper and
justified medium for dissolution testing (5).
Media Selection and Approaches to Improve the
Saturation Solubility
The choice of medium will depend on the purpose of
the dissolution test. The dissolution characteristics of oral
formulations should first be evaluated using test media
within the physiologic pH range of 1.26.8 (1.27.5 for
modified-release formulations) because low solubility
drugs include those with adequate aqueous solubility at
either acidic (e.g., amines) or neutral (e.g., organic acids)
pH levels. During method development, it may be useful
to measure the pH of the test medium before and after a
run to see if the pH changes during the test (2).
For batch-to-batch quality testing, selection of the
dissolution medium is based, in part, on the solubility data
and the dose range of the drug product to ensure that
sink conditions are met. Usually, USP dissolution tests
specify 900 mL of water or buffers as a dissolution
medium to provide sink conditions. The term sink
condition is defined as a volume of medium at least three
times the volume required to form a saturated solution of
a drug substance. Some sources recommend five times
and even ten times (5). However, how much is really
needed? This question has yet to be justified. For poorly
soluble drugs, finding appropriate sink conditions
is challenging, particularly for drugs whose solubility is
less than 2 mg/L. With regard to the sink condition, an
alternative approach has been made by USP is the
designing of flow-through cell apparatus (USP 4). The
flow-through apparatus (USP 4) allows flow rates
exceeding 50 mL/min (3 L/hr). Although these volumes
can provide the theoretical capacity for complete extent
of dissolution, for slowly dissolving compounds a limiting
dissolution rate can be reached. One then ends up merely
diluting the sample concentration to a point at which it
becomes difficult to detect analytically. Using reasonable
flow rates and long assay times, this apparatus can provide
a significant increase in the volume (5).
As we mentioned above, intrinsic solubility of drug
depends upon pH of medium, sink conditions as well as
nature of the medium. For freely aqueous soluble drugs
and their immediate-release dosage forms, the use of
water as a dissolution medium is satisfactory. However, for
drugs with limited aqueous solubility, the use of water as a
dissolution medium is limited.

Water as a Dissolution Medium

Dissolution testing is used widely by the
pharmaceutical industry and regulatory agencies to
assure the continued quality of many oral dosage forms
relative to the approved lot tested for bioavailability/
bioequivalence (BA/BE). Many USP dissolution tests specify
water as the dissolution medium.
Solubilities measured in water are not always indicative
of solubilities in the gastrointestinal tract. The use of
aqueous solubility to predict oral drug absorption can
therefore lead to very pronounced underestimates of the
oral bioavailability, particularly for drugs that are poorly
soluble and lipophilic. Also, water lacks buffering capacity
and thus, in some instances, the pH of the medium may
change as the drug dissolves (as for salts). In addition,
because water is not representative of the gastrointestinal
environment, it is not considered a physiologically
relevant medium (6).
But in many USP monographs, water is still frequently
used as a better dissolution medium (e.g., Acarbose,
Acetaminophen/Butalbital/Caffeine/Codeine Phosphate,
Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium, Aspirin/Meprobamate,
Busulfan, Capecitabine, Carbamazepine, Cefadroxil,
Cephalexin, Cetirizine HCl, Clonazepam,
Cyclophosphamide, Dexmethylphenidate HCl,
Desmopressin Acetate, Didanosine, Estazolam,
Fenofibrate) (7).
In addition, it has long been felt by members of the USP
and FDA, probably based upon empirical observations,
that water may be a better discriminating medium than
the more physiological systems. The argument is that
water appears to make it more difficult for some products
to release the active ingredient and therefore good
dissolution in water indicates that it will release even
better in vivo. With regard to the above points, the
question, Is the purpose of the medium to make the
product look good just to pass a test, or is it to anticipate
potential absorption problems? must be justified (8). For
example, products formulated with excipients that are
insoluble at pH values above 12, can release well when
0.1 N HCl is utilized for dissolution. However, in water this
product would release much more slowly. Unfortunately,
the physiological medium does not indicate what the
release will be in achlorhydric subjects or simply when the
stomach is not at a pH value of 1 (8).
Therefore, we strongly support Carol Noory and
co-workers statement (6) that the in vitro dissolution
must serve as both a quality control tool and as a
potential surrogate marker of drug bioavailability and
bioequivalence. Using a dissolution medium that better
simulates the environment of the gastrointestinal tract
will help make dissolution testing conditions more
physiologically relevant to in vivo absorption and useful in
evaluating the quality and stability of these drug products.
Biorelevant Media
In the last five to ten years, it has been thought that
when dissolution testing is used to forecast the in vivo
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performance of a drug, it is critical that the in vitro test

mimics the conditions in vivo as closely as possible. This
medium is of two types, Fed-State Simulated Intestinal
Fluid (FeSSIF) in which lecithin, sodium taurocholate and
enzymes (optional) are added to the phosphate buffer
whose pH is adjusted to 6.5, and Fasted-State Simulated
Intestinal Fluid (FaSSIF), which also contains sodium
taurocholate lecithin and enzymes (optional) to the
acetate buffer whose pH is adjusted to 5.0 (9). The
development of biorelevant gastrointestinal media that
simulate the fasted and fed states has given a better result
when compared to release media as IVIVC is concerned.
These media have been used to examine the solubility
and dissolution characteristics of several classes of drugs
including poorly soluble weak bases and lipophilic drugs
to assist in predicting in vivo absorption behavior.
Biorelevant in vitro dissolution testing is useful for
qualitative forecasting of formulation and food effects on
the dissolution and availability of orally administered
drugs. It has been observed that biorelevant media can
provide a more accurate simulation of pharmacokinetic
profiles than simulated gastric fluid or simulated intestinal
fluid. The use of biorelevant media can have a great impact
on the pharmacokinetic studies performed to optimize
dosing conditions and product formulation. In addition,
biorelevant dissolution testing could be used to assess
bioequivalence of post-approval formulation changes in
certain kinds of drugs.
Due to their complex composition, availability of costly
surfactants (sodium taurocholate and lecithin), and
questionable storage stability, these media are expensive,
and their use is limited as a regular quality control
medium. But a simple test medium can be developed
which can work almost like biorelevant media as well as
regular QC (quality control) media is the replacement of
natural bile components (Sodium taurocholate and
lecithin) with different type and concentrations of
surfactants (popularly known as mixed micelles) (9).
Use of Surfactants and Mixed Micelles
Because of the unique characteristics of surfactants,
small concentrations added to water will immediately
form a stable monolayer. As more surfactant is added, a
bilayer is formed. If the concentration of surfactant is
increased sufficiently, the bilayer becomes unstable and
micelles are formed. The micelle consists of a hydrophilic
shell and a hydrophobic core (10).
Two factors that must be considered when evaluating
surfactants are cost and concentration needed. If the
dissolution assay is to be run in a Quality Control setting,
choosing an inexpensive surfactant will be important to
keep overall assay costs down. Examples of inexpensive
surfactants are sodium dodecyl sulfate or SDS (also
referred to as sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS) for an anionic
surfactant, Cetyl Trimethyl Ammonium Bromide or CTAB
for a cationic surfactant, and the polysorbates or Tweens
for a nonionic surfactant.


To get any substantial solubility enhancement, the

surfactant concentration must be at least above the
critical micelle concentration or CMC. The CMC will
depend upon the surfactant itself and the ionic strength
of the media. The amount of surfactant needed depends
on the CMC and the degree to which the compound
partitions into the surfactant micelles. Because of the
nature of the compoundmicelle interaction, there is
typically a linear dependence between solubility and
surfactant concentration above the CMC.
For a dissolution method developer, the aim must
always be to use the lowest amount of surfactant to
solubilize the drug substance in the dosage form to
achieve greater than 85% dissolution in a reasonable
amount of time. Moreover, there must be a solid justification for using more than 2% (as per FDA). Compared with
media containing a single surfactant, the mixture of
surfactants seems to be more favorable because it is likely
that mixed micelles are formed, which is analogous to the
behavior of natural bile components. The use of mixed
micelles in the dissolution media is a novel approach.
Mixed micelles are a mixture of the same or different
proportions of different type of surfactants. They have a
hydrophobic core in which low solubility compounds can
dissolve (9). To reflect the physicochemical parameters of
FaSSIF and FeSSIF adequately, only those surfactants
resulting in surface tensions of 5256 mN/m should be
used in concentrations above their critical micelle
concentration (CMC). Some synthetic surfactants, several
of which are prescribed in compendial dissolution test
methods, appeared to be unsuitable for the stated
purpose since they lower the surface tension too much. In
particular, this is the case for sodium dodecyl sulfate (SLS/
SDS), which results in surface tensions of about 30 mN/m
at concentrations above the CMC. On the other hand, the
polysorbates Tween 20, 40, 60, and 80 show promise in the
concentration range of 0.050.5%, because their surface
tensions reflect the surface tensions of FaSSIF and FeSSIF.
Zoeller and Klein (9) have reported on the dissolution
behavior of ketoconazole under fasted-state, small
intestinal conditions using buffers containing simple
surfactants like Tween 60 and 80, while for fed-state
conditions, Tween 20 and 40 proved useful. They reported
that a blank FeSSIF containing a combination of
0.25% Tween 80 and 0.25% triethanolamine resulted in
dissolution profiles almost superimposable to those
in FeSSIF. Triethanolamine itself has no emulsifying
properties. Because it is both a tertiary amine and a
tri-alcohol, it possesses hydrophilic and hydrophobic
properties. Here, the use of triethanolamine was to
simulate some functional domains of the lecithin
molecule, thus facilitating the formation of mixed micelles
and stabilizing them.
These or similar media can be utilized to develop test
methods for the early phases of formulation development
and have potential for biorelevant quality control (QC)

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tests. Additional advantages of their use include much

better storage stability, ease of preparation, andprobably
the most significant criterion for everyday usea far lower
price. For example, one liter of FeSSIF can cost as much
as US$700, whereas the price of one liter of medium
containing synthetic surfactants (mixed micelles) is only
around US$1 (9).
In rare cases, when drug is practically insoluble in
normal buffered aqueous medium (with or without
surfactants), then the use of a nonaqueous medium is an
alternative approach.
Use of Nonaqueous Media
Nonaqueous solvents can be used with aqueous
buffered media as a cosolvent for nonpolar (hydrophobic)
drugs. A cosolvent system is one in which a water miscible
or practically miscible organic solvent is mixed with water
to form a modified aqueous solution. Cosolvents have
some regions of hydrogen bond donating or accepting as
well as hydrocarbon regions. The resulting solution will
have physical properties that are intermediate to that of
the pure organic solvent and water through the reduction
of waterwater interactions. This affords a system that is
more favorable for nonpolar solutes.
The use of nonaqueous solvents for dissolution media is
unconventional. From a practical point of view, if such a
medium is filed with the regulatory authorities, one will
probably be expected to show that conventional tactics
for getting adequate solubility and dissolution do not
work. One also has to deal with the waste disposal
problem since nonaqueous media often cannot be merely
neutralized and poured down the drain. However, if
aqueous-based methods for achieving solubility have
been exhausted, use of hydroalcoholic media may be the
best alternative. Another solvent that can be used as the
dissolution medium is 30:70 isopropanol/0.01 N HCl (5).
Dissolution Enhancement by Physical Modification of
the Drug
The solubility of a drug is not only determines
the dissolution behavior of an active pharmaceutical
ingredient (API) in the formulation, but it also affects the
absorption as well as therapeutic efficacy of the drug. In
intrinsic dissolution limited absorption (in which
disintegration of the dosage form is rapid but dissolution
is slow as in poorly soluble drugs), some commonly used
physical modifications of the API are reduction of particle
size, complexation, and solid dispersions of drug in
suitable carriers. In solubility limited absorption (intrinsic
solubility controlled), the formulation approach is
commonly used to enhance the solubility of the API. This
approach includes the use of different salt forms of API,
surfactants in the formulation (solid dispersions), and
noncrystalline materials.

1. Particle Size Reduction

According to the modified NoyesWhitney equation,
the rate of mass lost from the particle is given by
dM/dt = DS/h (CS CB)
where M is the mass of compound dissolved in time t, D is
the diffusion coefficient of the compound in medium, S is
surface area, h is thickness of the stagnant film layer,
CS is the saturated solubility of the compound at the
particlemedia interface, and CB is the concentration of
compound in the bulk medium.
In evaluating each term in the equation in terms of its
role in dissolution, we can recognize that effective
changes in two parameters, surface area and solubility, can
lead to a significant enhancement in the dissolution rate
of the drug. Moreover, both parameters are controlled and
easily measurable. On the other hand, any modification in
the film thickness h or the diffusion coefficient D is either
impractical or useless from a bioavailability point of view.
The film thickness only can be decreased by increasing the
stirring rate dramatically, a condition that is not applicable
to the in vivo environment. In addition, the diffusion
coefficient is a function of temperature, the radius of the
molecule, and the viscosity of the medium, all of which are
constant under in vivo conditions.
a) Micronization
Increasing the dissolution rate by reducing the particle
size of poorly water-soluble drugs has been the most
popular practice for many decades. Conventional methods
of particle size reduction, such as comminution and spray
drying, rely upon mechanical stress to disaggregate the
active compound. Today, micronization of drugs is widely
done by milling techniques using a jet mill, rotor stator,
colloidal mill, and air attrition. Kornblum and Hirschorn
(11) evaluated two specific methods of micronization,
spray drying and air attrition, which provided drug forms
of different specific surface areas and particle size ranges.
With the aforementioned advantages, micronization has
some limitations; micronization of sparingly or poorly
soluble drugs is by no means a guarantee of better
dissolution and absorption. A hydrophobic powder with
small particle size leads to aggregation, making it difficult
to disperse. The particles float on the dissolution medium
because of entrapped air. It is difficult to remove or wet
these particles. All these effects, in fact, reduce the rate of
dissolution (12).
b) Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology will be used to improve drugs that
approaches have poor solubility. Nanotechnology broadly
refers to the study and use of materials and structures at
the nanoscale level of approximately 100 nm or less (13).
For many new chemical entities with very low solubility,
oral bioavailability enhancement by micronization is not
sufficient because micronized product has the tendency
to agglomerate, which leads to decreased effective surface
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area for dissolution (14), and the next step taken was
nanonisation (15).
i) Nanosuspension
Nanosuspensions are submicron colloidal dispersion of
pure particles of drug that are stabilized by surfactants
(16). The advantages offered by nanosuspension is
an increased dissolution rate due to a larger exposed
surface area. The recent techniques widely used to form
nanosuspensions are homogenization, wet milling,
sonocrystallization, super critical fluid technology, and
spray drying.
The suspension is forced under pressure through a
valve that has a nano aperture. This causes bubbles of
water to form, which collapse as they come out of the
valves. This mechanism cracks the particles.
Three types of homogenizers are commonly used
for particle size reduction in the pharmaceutical and
biotechnology industries: conventional homogenizers,
sonicators, and high-shear fluid processors (17).
Wet Milling
Active drug in the presence of surfactant is defragmented by milling. Drying of nanosuspensions can be
done by lyophilization or spray drying. The
nanosuspension approach has been employed for drugs
including tarazepide, atovaquone, amphotericin B,
paclitaxel, and bupravaquone.
Sonocrystallization utilizes ultrasound power characterized by a frequency range of 20100 kHz for inducing
crystallization. Most applications use ultrasound in the
range of 20 kHz to 5 MHz to reduce the particle size (18).
Supercritical Fluid Process
In the supercritical fluid (SCF) process, micronization is
done by the supercritical fluid. Supercritical fluids are
fluids whose temperature and pressure are greater than
their critical temperature (Tc) and critical pressure (Tp). An
SCF is highly compressible, which allows moderate
changes in pressure to greatly alter the density and mass
transport characteristics that largely determine its solvent
power. The SCF process can create nanoparticulate
suspensions of particles 52,000 nm in diameter (19, 20).
Spray drying
Spray drying is a commonly used method for drying a
liquid feed through a hot gas. Typically, this hot gas is air,
but sensitive materials such as pharmaceuticals and
solvents like ethanol require oxygen-free drying, and
nitrogen gas is used instead. The liquid feed varies
depending on the material being dried. This method of
drying is a one-step, rapid process (21). Spray drying of the


poorly water-soluble salicylic acid dispersed in acacia

solutions resulted in as much as a 50% improvement in its
solubility (22).
ii) Nanocrystals
A nanocrystal is a crystalline material with dimensions
measured in nanometers, a nanoparticle with a structure
that is mostly crystalline. Nanocrystallization is defined as
a way of diminishing drug particles to the size range of
11000 nm. Keck et al. (15) formulated nanocrystals of
poorly soluble drugs by high-pressure homogenization to
enhance their dissolution and bioavailability.
iii) Nanomorphs
Nanomorph technology converts drug substances with
low water solubility from a coarse crystalline state into
amorphous nanoparticles to enhance their dissolution. A
suspension of drug substance in solvent is fed into a
chamber, where it is rapidly mixed with another solvent.
Immediately the drug substance suspension is converted
into a true molecular solution. The admixture of an
aqueous solution of a polymer induces precipitation
of the drug substance. The polymer keeps the drug
substance particles in their nanoparticulate state and
prevents them from aggregation or growth.
Water-redispersable dry powders can be obtained from
the nanosized dispersion by conventional methods (e.g.,
spray drying).
Using this technology, a coarse, crystalline drug
substance is transformed into a nanodispersed
amorphous state without any physical milling or grinding
procedures. It leads to the preparation of amorphous
nanoparticles (23).
2. Use of Metastable Polymorphs
The presence of metastable, polymorphic crystalline
forms can exert a great influence on the solubility,
dissolution rate, and biological activity of medicaments.
The separation and selective use of a specific polymorphic
form that possesses the highest solubility is a technique
that can be applied, in certain cases, for the increase of
dissolution rates. Melting followed by rapid cooling or
recrystallization from different solvents can produce
metastable forms of a drug. For example, a metastable
form of chloramphenicol palmitate is more water-soluble
than the A and C forms (24).
3. Drug Dispersion in Carriers
a) Solid Solutions
A solid solution is a binary system comprising a solid
solute molecularly dispersed in a solid solvent. Since the
two components crystallize together in a homogeneous
one-phase system, solid solutions are also called molecular
dispersions or mixed crystals. They are generally prepared
by a fusion method, whereby a physical mixture of solute
and solvent are melted together followed by rapid

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solidification. The solid solution of griseofulvinsuccinic

acid dissolves 67 times faster than pure griseofulvin (25).
When the resultant solid solution is a homogeneous,
transparent, and brittle system, it is called a glass solution.
Carriers that form glassy structures are citric acid, urea,
polyvinyl pyrrolidone, polyethylene glycol, and sugars
such as dextrose, sucrose, inulin, and galactose. When the
solid solution, in which solute and solvent molecules are
randomly arranged in a crystal lattice, is exposed to the
dissolution fluid, the soluble carrier dissolves rapidly
leaving the insoluble drug stranded at almost the
molecular level.
b) Eutectic Mixtures
These systems are prepared by a fusion method.
Eutectic melts differ from solid solutions in that the fused
melt of solute and solvent show complete miscibility but
negligible solidsolid solubility (i.e., such systems are
basically an intimately blended physical mixture of two
crystalline components). When the binary mixture is
exposed to water, the soluble carrier dissolves rapidly
leaving the insoluble drug in a state of microcrystalline
dispersion of very fine particles. Examples of eutectic
mixtures include paracetamolurea, griseofulvinurea, and
griseofulvinsuccinic acid (26).
Sekiguchi and co-workers (26) suggested that
submicron particle size reduction could be achieved
through eutectic formation between a poorly soluble drug
and a rapidly soluble carrier and reported one of the
earliest techniques used. As an example, significant
improvement in the dissolution rate of chloramphenicol
was obtained when incorporated in a eutectic mixture
with urea (27). The soluble carrier dissolves rapidly leaving
the insoluble drug in a state of microcrystalline dispersion
consisting of extremely fine particles.
The advantage with solid solutions and eutectics is that
they are melts, are easy to prepare, and are economical
because no solvent is used. Some limitations are that it
cannot be applied to drugs that fail to crystallize from the
mixed melt, thermolabile drugs, and carriers such as
succinic acid that decompose at their melting points.
c) SoluteSolvent Complexation Reactions
Molecular complexation between molecules of
dissolving solutes and certain solvents have been known
to affect dissolution rates. The major complexation
mechanism in these systems is hydrogen bonding. Higuchi
et al. (28) studied the dissolution rate of 2-naphthol tablets
in cyclohexane (an inert solvent) containing various
amounts of additives such as 1-propanol and 1-undecanol.
These additives are known to react rapidly and reversibly
with the dissolved molecules of 2-naphthol to yield
soluble complexes. Here, both the diffusion coefficient of
the complexing component in the solvent and the
stability constant of the resulting complex are the major
factors that control the dissolution kinetics of these

d) Solid Dispersions
In 1965, Tachibana and Nakamura (29) described a new
approach utilizing water-soluble polymers for the
preparation of aqueous dispersions of -carotene.
Mayersohn and Gibaldi (30) applied the same approach to
improve the solubility and dissolution characteristics of
griseofulvin. The dispersion method allows the
preparation of physically modified forms of the drug that
are much more rapidly soluble in water than the pure
compound. The most commonly used hydrophilic carriers
for solid dispersions include polyvinyl pyrrolidone,
polyethylene glycols, and plasdone-S630. Surfactants may
also be used in the formation of solid dispersions.
Surfactants like Tween-80, Myrj-52, and Pluronic-F68 and
sodium lauryl sulfate are used. Chiou and Riegelman (31)
recommended polyethylene glycol, a water-soluble
polymer, as an excellent universal carrier for improving the
dissolution rate and oral absorption of water-insoluble
drugs. They reported that the dissolution of griseofulvin,
as well as its absorption and total availability in both dog
(32) and man (33), was significantly higher when the solid
was dispersed in polyethylene glycol 4000, 6000, or 20,000,
as compared with the traditionally micronized form of the
drug. Deshpande and Agrawal (34) reported that the
dissolution rates of chlorothiazide, hydrochlorothiazide,
flumethiazide, and cyclopentathiazide also were increased
when dispersed in polyethylene glycol 6000. Takai et al.
(35) studied the quantitative relationship of the
dissolution behavior of griseofulvin with the properties of
the polyethylene glycol polymer used.
Various newer strategies investigated by several
investigators include fusion (melting), solvent evaporation,
lyophilization (freeze drying), melt agglomeration,
extrusion, spray drying, surfactant use, electrostatic
spinning, and super critical fluid technology for solid
4. Complexation with -Cyclodextrins
Complexation is the association between two or more
molecules to form a nonbonded entity with a well-defined
stoichiometry. The two types of complexation that are
most useful for increasing the solubility of drugs in
aqueous media are stacking and inclusion. Stacking
complexes are formed by the overlap of the planar regions
of aromatic molecules, while inclusion complexes are
formed by the insertion of the nonpolar region of one
molecule into the cavity of another molecule (or group of
The -, - and -cyclodextrins are cyclic oligosaccharides
consisting of six, seven, and eight glucose units,
respectively. One of the important properties of these
naturally occurring cyclodextrins is their ability to form
inclusion complexes with smaller molecules that fit
into the hydrophobic cavity of the cyclodextrin. The
formation of inclusion complexes alters a variety of the
physicochemical properties of the drug molecule such as
its solubility, dissolution rate, membrane permeability,
chemical reactivity, and dissociation constant. In some
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cases, as the concentration of cyclodextrin increases, the

solubility increases initially, levels off, and then decreases.
In 1963, Cohen and Lach (36, 37) were the first to report
that inclusion complexes with various drugs in solution
increase drug solubility and improve the dissolution rate.
In 1975, Kurozumi et al. (38) made a simple freeze-dried
complex of drug and -cyclodextrin to improve the
solubility and dissolution of drug. Although natural
cyclodextrin, especially the -type, has been utilized
extensively to improve the dissolution rate and absorption
of insoluble drug molecules, Uekama and others have
reported that -cyclodextrin has some undesirable
characteristics, the most important of which are its
definite cavity size and its relatively low aqueous solubility
(1.8% at 25 C) (39, 40). Recently, chemically modified
cyclodextrins have been introduced to overcome this
limitation. Uekama et al. (41) demonstrated that
the inclusion complex of the anti-inflammatory drug
flurbiprofen with the heptakisdimethyl derivative of
-cyclodextrin was superior to the natural -cyclodextrin.
Zerrouk et al. (42) reported the aqueous solubility of
glyburide was improved 40-fold when mixed with
hydroxypropyl--cyclodextrin and 25-fold when mixed
with -cyclodextrin. Another cyclodextrin chemically
modified with epichlorhydrin is extremely soluble in water
and interacts with a variety of guest molecules (43, 44) like
Miscellaneous Approaches
Shulman first used the term microemulsion in 1959.
A microemulsion is a four-component system composed
of external phase, internal phase, surfactant, and
cosurfactant. The addition of surfactant, which unlike the
cosurfactant, is predominately soluble in the internal
phase, results in the formation of an optically clear,
isotropic, thermodynamically stable emulsion. It is termed
a microemulsion because the internal or dispersed phase
has a droplet diameter of less than 0.1 m. Microemulsion
formation is spontaneous and does not involve the input
of external energy as for coarse emulsions. The surfactant
and the cosurfactant alternate each other and form a
mixed film at the interface, which contributes to the
stability of the microemulsion. Lawrence and Rees (45)
reported microemulsion-based media as novel
drug delivery systems to enhance the dissolution and
bioavailability of poorly soluble and poorly bioavailable
(Biopharmaceutical Classification System class IV) drugs.
Nonionic surfactants, such as Tweens (polysorbates) and
Labrafil (polyoxyethylated oleic glycerides), with high
hydrophilelipophile balances are often used to ensure
immediate formation of oil-in-water droplets during
Plasma Irradiation
Plasma irradiation has been investigated as a possible
technique for increasing the dissolution rate of poorly
soluble drugs. A plasma is a partially ionized gas that


contains an equal number of positive and negative ions

and unionized neutral species such as molecules, atoms,
and radicals. It is created by subjecting a gas (e.g., O2) to a
radio-frequency potential in a vacuum chamber. This leads
to the production of electrons, which are accelerated by
an electric field and collide with neutral molecules to
produce free radicals, atoms, and ions. In an oxygen
plasma, O2 can be excited from the ground state to higher
electronic levels to form O2+ and O2-. Further dissociation
reaction leads to the production of oxygen atoms and ions
such as O+ and O-. During plasma treatment, these oxygen
radicals then react with the chemical groups on the
surface of an exposed sample that leads to the formation
of an O2-containing functional group such as hydroxyl,
carbonyl, or carboxyl group. The production of these
functional groups leads to an increase in wettability and
thus increases the effective surface area available for
dissolution, which increases the dissolution rate (46).
Liquisolid Compacts
Liquisolid compact formulation is a technique that
utilizes hydrophobic drugs dissolved in nonvolatile,
nontoxic, hydrophilic solvents like polyethylene glycol,
glycerin, propylene glycol, or polysorbate-80 (well known
as Liquid Medications) mixed with carriers like
microcrystalline cellulose, lactose, or polyvinyl
pyrrolidone- K30 using coating materials like silica in
optimized proportions and finally compressed into a
compact mass. In recent years, this technique was used to
enhance the dissolution rate of carbamazepine (47),
piroxicam (48), naproxen (49), famotidine (50), and
prednisolone (51).
Understanding the physicochemical properties of
a drug is crucial for determining the most effective
strategy for enhancing dissolution. Typically, the greatest
enhancement in the dissolution of poorly soluble
compounds is made by changing the dissolution medium
to increase compound solubility. Surfactants and pH
changes are very effective ways to increase solubility. The
in vitro dissolution must serve as both a quality control
tool and a potential surrogate marker of drug
bioavailability and bioequivalence. It is important to
note that no matter what new, innovative, and clever
dissolution methods will be developed to deal with poorly
soluble compounds, they will have to affect one or more
of the variables discussed above in a way to affect the
extent or rate of dissolution. Some articles suggest helping
the dissolution process by increasing the bath temperature, which affects solubility. This has its own set of
problems (i.e., regulatory acceptance and perhaps
increased drug degradation), but nevertheless is a
potential strategy. One might also design a different
agitation device or increase sink conditions by using a
partitioning phase to remove compound from an aqueous
phase. In any case,increasing the dissolution rate or extent
will have to change one of the aforementioned variables.

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